1/ Robert Mueller declined to clear Trump of obstruction of justice and suggested that only Congress can "formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing" in his first public remarks about his two-year-long investigation of Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. The special counsel noted that "charging the president with a crime was […] not an option we could consider," because Justice Department policy prohibits the indictment of a sitting president. Mueller emphasized that if his office "had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so." Mueller concluded his remarks by reiterating his report's conclusion that "There were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. And that allegation deserves the attention of every American." (Washington Post / New York Times / ABC News / Associated Press / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / NPR)

  • Read the transcript of Mueller's statement. (NPR / Politico)

  • What the Mueller report actually said: "The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion," Mueller wrote. This help "favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton." The Trump campaign "expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts," and it "welcomed" this help. Today, Mueller said "We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself." (The Atlantic)

  • 📌 Day 819: Attorney General William Barr repeatedly insisted that Robert Mueller "found no evidence" that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that Russian efforts to interfere "did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign." Barr also claimed Mueller's report did not find "collusion" between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Further, Barr said that even if the Trump campaign had colluded with WikiLeaks, that was not a crime. Mueller identified "numerous" Trump campaign-Russia contacts, but the report says there was "insufficient evidence" to establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump or his campaign aides and their contacts with Russians. The report outlines how Trump was elected with Russia's help and when a federal inquiry was started to investigate the effort, Trump took multiple steps to stop or undermine it. Barr said Mueller examined 10 "episodes" where Trump may have obstructed justice, but that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein "disagreed with some of the special counsel's legal theories and felt that some of the episodes did not amount to obstruction." According to Barr, Trump acted out of "noncorrupt motives" because he was frustrated by Mueller's investigation, as well as media coverage that he felt was hurting his administration. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / NBC News / CNN / The Guardian / Bloomberg)

  • 📌 Day 837: More than 370 former federal prosecutors asserted that Trump would have been charged with obstruction of justice if he was not president. Robert Mueller declined to exonerate Trump in his report, citing a Justice Department legal opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted. The former career government employees who worked in Republican and Democratic administrations signed on to a statement saying, "Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice." (Washington Post)

2/ Trump responded to Mueller's statement: "The case is closed!" Trump's tweet that "nothing changes from the Mueller Report" came minutes after Mueller reiterated his position that "if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so." Sarah Huckabee Sanders added that despite longstanding Justice Department policy barring the prosecution of a sitting president for a federal crime, Mueller's "report was clear — there was no collusion, no conspiracy — and the Department of Justice confirmed there was no obstruction." She added that the administration was "prepared" for an impeachment fight. (CNBC)

3/ At least 10 Democratic presidential candidates have now endorsed impeachment proceedings against Trump following Mueller's news conference. Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Seth Moulton, Eric Swalwell, Julián Castro, Beto O’Rourke, and Wayne Messam all support impeachment proceedings. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, held firm on her belief that impeaching Trump isn't a worthwhile effort without uncovering new evidence "to make such a compelling case, such an ironclad case, that even the Republican Senate — which at the time seems to be not an objective jury — will be convinced of the path that we have to take as a country." (Politico / Washington Post / New York Times)

  • Mueller's message to Pelosi is that it is the constitutional duty of Congress to begin an investigation and consider impeaching Trump. Mueller's statement today underscored the special counsel's office "was bound" by department policy not to indict the president—or even accuse him. (Slate)

4/ Mueller resigned from the Department of Justice to "return to private life" and is "formally closing the special counsel's office" now that the "investigation is complete." He said he hoped this would be his last public comment on the subject and suggested that if he were compelled to testify before Congress, he would not speak "beyond what is already public" in his 448-page report because "the report is my testimony." Mueller added: "I am making that decision myself. Nobody has told me whether I can or should testify or speak further about this matter." (Politico / Daily Beast / NPR / NBC News / CNBC)

  • Andrew Miller will testify Friday before Mueller's grand jury. The former aide to Roger Stone agreed to testify after fighting a subpoena for 10 months. He faced jail time for contempt if he continued to refuse to testify. (Washington Post / ABC News)

  • The Justice Department agreed to make Mueller investigation-related court activity public. While unsealing the records will not reveal the details of the filings, but instead provide an overview of how, when and for what Mueller was going to the federal court to gather evidence. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. Mitch McConnell would try to fill an opening on the Supreme Court if there were a vacancy next year. In contrast, McConnell refused to confirm Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, after the death of Antonin Scalia during the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election. McConnell claimed that voters had a right to decide whether a Democrat or Republican should fill the open seat on the Court. When asked what his position would be when it came to filling a potentially vacant seat next year, however, McConnell smiled and said: "Oh, we'd fill it." (Washington Post / CNN / New York Times / Politico / NPR / NBC News)

  2. U.S. intelligence said Russia is secretly conducting low-yield nuclear tests to upgrade its nuclear arsenal and has failed to observe its commitments to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. (Wall Street Journal)

  3. The Pentagon hasn't held an on-camera press briefing with any department spokesperson in a year. "We're talking about some sort of strike on another country and nobody knows why," said one Pentagon reporter. A spokesperson for the Defense Department pushed back against the claim, saying, "It depends what your definition of a briefing is." (Politico)

  4. The director of the HHS refugee office will leave the Trump administration next week. Scott Lloyd ran the refugee office for most of 2017 and 2018 as HHS was taking custody of thousands of migrant children separated from their families. (Politico)

  5. The vast majority of money from Trump's bailout for farmers will likely to go to the largest farms – not the small mom-and-pop farms. Farms with annual revenues of several million dollars are likely to see the most bailout money, which are already major beneficiaries of federal crop support programs. Findings from the Environmental Working Group suggest that "the biggest payments will go to the wealthiest farmers, who need them the least." (Los Angeles Times)

  6. Trump's tax cuts have had "a relatively small (if any) first-year effect on the economy" and they are failing to pay for themselves, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. Despite claims that the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would add "rocket fuel" to the U.S. economy, the CRS found the law was mostly beneficial to investors. Wages are only growing at 2 percent, companies are seeing a bigger increase in earnings than employees, and "ordinary workers had very little growth in wage rates." (The Independent / Washington Post / Congressional Research Service)


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